Thursday, December 30, 2010

Links 12/30/10

Jess Nevins gives a close reading of Mary Poppins and he can reach only one conclusion: It's a horror film!Mary Poppins’ mirror image moves and acts on its own. It smiles now—but what is it doing when the children are asleep? Is it still there, looking at them? Does it—can it—affect the children’s reality? Heroes nods at this, with Mirror Jessica haunting Niki, but the show doesn’t make full use of this. Neither does Mary Poppins, but in context Mirror Mary Poppins is actually more disturbing than Mirror Jessica.”

The best, most disheartening analysis of the Wikileaks affair so far comes from SF writer Bruce Sterling. Everyone involved, including Julian Assange and Wikileaks, gets taken to task: “Diplomats have become weak in the way that musicians are weak. Musicians naturally want people to pay real money for music, but if you press them on it, they’ll sadly admit that they don’t buy any music themselves. Because, well, they’re in the business, so why should they? And the same goes for diplomats and discreet secrets.

Like me, you may still have folks asking you how Twitter works or why you do it. Designer Jessica Hische has put together a simple and conclusive explanation called Mom, This is How Twitter Works. I will be directing people to this page a lot, I think.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Expecting

Melissa and I found out she was pregnant quite a while ago and we've been sitting on the news. We've been told it's a good idea to wait until at least the eighth week of pregnancy to spread the news. Given Melissa's age, we wanted to wait even longer and get the results of some non-invasive genetics testing before we let the cat out of the bag. Well, the results were positive enough that we're letting the world know. Sometime in Late June or early July we'll be welcoming baby #2, whom we are calling Blossom (we called Oscar The Sprout). This is an interesting date just because on July fifth I am expecting to board a plane bound for Ireland for a little more than a week as part of my MFA program. We'll see how all of that goes.

This pregnancy has been a little rough. Melissa has been nauseated, sometimes to the point of incapacity, nearly the entire time. On top of everything else I've got going on, I've picked up the slack around the house and helped to ease her suffering -- and that's exactly what it looked like to me. It seems to be letting up, and I'm glad of that for a few reasons.

So, come the Summer, things will once again be pretty interesting. Melissa and I are trying to prepare ourselves to have a newborn in the house again, but I feel like we can't really. One of the reason I think people have more children is that they can't remember exactly what the experience was like. We're also trying to prepare Oscar. We'll see how that goes. Some days he seems excited, or at least interested, by the prospect. Some days he flat out says he doesn't want a little brother or sister.

For the next little while you can expect the usual silliness on this blog to be peppered with news about The Blossom -- how it's developing, it's entrance into the world, etc. Hope no one minds.

Wish us luck.

The Beauty of Pixar

UPDATE: The video has since been deleted from Copperfield's Vimeo stream. Sorry, folks.

This video is making the rounds, but if you haven't seen it, you should definitely watch it. It's a mashup of all of Pixar's films set to music, edited by Leandro Copperfield. This makes me want to watch each and every one of these movies again. Enjoy.

Links 12/28/10

Via BoingBoing comes this collection of Civil-War-era photos of battlefield injuries. Not easy to look at, but fascinating and informative.

Tineye.com. Reverse image search. Have a cool image but you don't know the artist? Tineye seems like it could help. Useful is good.

Once again, Patton Oswalt speaks truth. This time about geek culture: “The coming decades—the 21st-century’s ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s—have the potential to be one long, unbroken, recut spoof in which everything in Avatar farts while Keyboard Cat plays eerily in the background.”


Monday, December 27, 2010

Back From Kathmandu

To wash the taste of that previous, terribly dry post out of our collective mouth (ugh), here's a lovely video. I posted this a while ago on FaceBook, but I think that site is imperfect vessel for something so lovely. Also, I want it somewhere I can find it quickly.

Ok Go make very lovely videos. I thought this was a lost art. I especially like the "Hey, kid's, let's put on a show!" aspect that must of their videos embody. Very DIY, very spontaneous and, because of that, very full of energy and very inventive. That's too many instances of the word "very", but I think you get what I'm going for.


I also like the lyrics to this song:

In the dream you were someone different
You and everyone else all at once
You were beautiful, you were beautiful
In the dream you were just like you are

You loved everyone like a sovereign
Half magnanimous, half unimpressed
And I was talkin' too much I was tryin' too hard
In the dream it was just like it is

Everything was so simple
Things are how they always will be
You are the answer to the question that is me
In the dream it was just like it is

We were captive in, in a prison
Where everyone was guilty by mistake
And it was infinite, it was infinite
In the dream it was just like it is

And I, I asked, "Is that good for you?"
You said, "No, probably not
But everybody's gotta get through the night
And love is all we got", yeah

In the dream it was just like it is
Yeah, in the dream it was just like it is

In the dream you were someone different
You and everyone else all at once
You were beautiful, you were beautiful
In the dream it was just like it is

Links 12/26/10

I have heard rumors that Delicious.com is going away. This distress me. I like that site a lot. (For those that don't know, Delicious is a bookmarking site. Rather than create bookmarks on your computer's web browser, you save them to the site. This means you can access them from any computer with internet access.) I'm hunting around for a replacement site. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know. I've started using Mister-Wong.com, but I'm not falling in love with it so far.

In the mean time, I'm going to start saving links right here. I figure that this site won't ever go away, right? I also figure that people might be interested to see what's catching my eye. Some of this is for specific projects, some of it's just because it's weird and informative and of general interest.

James Burke: Connections. One of the finest documentary series ever produced on television. EVER. Now available to stream on your Internet viewing device (otherwise known as your computer).





Saturday, December 18, 2010

In which the novel is discussed and the title is revealed

I have a habit of not talking about what I'm writing. There are two parts to this. 1) I often feel like talking too much about something I'm writing robs it of a lot of energy. Sometimes I can talk so much about something that I feel no desire to actually get it on paper. And 2) I don't want to jinx any of the projects I'm working on by mentioning them. If there's something I'm excited about and mention it to a lot of people, I don't want to have to go back to this people later and explain that it's not going to happen should some disaster befall the whole process. I've been burned by both of those in the past. Or, perhaps I should say, I have burned myself with both of those in the past.

Such was the case with my novel. Which, for the past few months, I have been calling simply, "The novel." I didn't want to mention too many specifics here as I wrote it. And now that a draft is done and some people have asked about it, I want to talk about it in more detail, but it feels really awkward. Like when you want to bring up something in casual conversation, maybe something you are really proud of -- some accomplishment -- but there's no graceful way to steer the conversation that way and so you just end up bringing it up and you feel like an ass, but you just can't help yourself. Or maybe that's just me.

Anyway, I know that no one mentioned novels, but hey, let me tell you about the novel I just wrote! For starters, it has a title: Zomburbia. It's a YA novel. Here's the elevator pitch:

Zomburbia is about a smart-ass sixteen-year-old girl trying to navigate burgeoning first love in a world infested by zombies.

That log line is a work-in-progress, but it's nearly there. Also, I am very proud of myself for having spelled "burgeoning" correctly on the first attempt.

So. A zombie novel. I resisted it for a long time. I know that zombies are everywhere right now and that makes me think that they are about to disappear. I did think about something else as a first novel, but everything I thought of interested me less than Zomburbia. Nothing inspired me in the same way. So I decided to go with my gut and hope I was doing the right thing.

The world of Zomburbia is different than other zombie stories in that the world never ground to a halt because of the zombie infestation. Of course, they were never able to get rid of the undead either, so now they're a threat, but one that everyone is familiar with.

Here's a little bit about where the idea came from. This may be of interest to exactly no one, but what the hell. I live in Salem, Oregon. Salem is about an hour south of Portland. There was a time when my wife and I drove back and forth to Portland a lot. We'd see friends, catch a rock show, go to eat, see plays. Portland is a nice place to go and experience some culture that isn't available in Salem. On one of these trips, I sat in the passenger seat and just watched the scenery roll by. The area between Salem and Portland is open fields for the most part. Agricultural land, and not all of it along the highways is developed. Sometimes it's easy to watch that empty land roll by and imagine that there's not a single person alive out there. I was thinking that very thing on that trip and, as is my wont, I started imaging why the land would be empty. Naturally, for me anyway, zombies were the first thing to come to mind. One of the things that's always bothered me about zombie movies is the way civilization just grinds to a halt. I think that humans have overcome way worse things in its history than the dead returning. (Before everyone rushes to tell me about it, I am aware of a film out there called Fido, which posits the same kind of world. Friends told me about it after I had the general outline to Zomburbia done and I was willing to talk about it. But I have purposefully avoided watching the movie because I didn't want to be contaminated by it.) I started to imagine a world where zombies had come back, but that still functioned. What would that world look like? How would you live in it? And then I imagined a bored teenager living in this world. She would think of zombies as just another nuisance in her day to day life right along with boys, her friends, her teachers and parents. Zombies might be more deadly than any of those things, but they're still just one more hassle to try and avoid as she goes about her business.

And after I knew what kind of girl this still unnamed character was, the story just sort of came to me all in a flash. Her, her friends and her dad, I knew what kinds of characters they were. I knew the broad outlines of the story. I knew what she would have to overcome by the novels end. I knew practically all of it. That sort of inspiration has never come to me before, and I remember getting home that night and writing away in one of my notebooks trying to capture all of it. It's at this point that I have to admit that I did rework that original outline. If I was given the story from A to Z, I actually used everything from, say, A to W. I changed the ending, made the girl more sympathetic and less of an outright psychotic. She was pretty dark in the original and I brightened her up a bit.

And I think I'll stop there. I don't want to discuss too much more. I'm going to start rewriting the book next month and so things might change, but the basic world and concept will stay the same.

So, if you've been wondering what I was working on for the last five months, there you go.

*The picture that goes with this post is a still from the seminal zombie movie, Night of the Living Dead, written directed by George Romero.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cooperation!

Something I've never done before is to collaborate on a piece of writing. That may be changing. If I'm lucky.

I have a friend who also writes comics on occasion. He contacted me out of the blue last month to tell me that he had an artist who was interested in working with him to put together a comics pitch. They both know an editor at a large comics publisher and wanted to work up something to pitch to him specifically. My writer friend worried that he didn't have enough time to work on anything by himself, so he wrote to me and asked if I'd like to write something with him. For a number of reason -- the chance to work with my friend, the chance to be published by this particular company -- I said yes.

I thought that we would just be working on an idea that he had come up with, but he and the artist had not actually settled on an idea yet, so I was asked to contribute some ideas as well. My friend then put the four best ideas, two from him and two from me, into one list and sent it off to the artist. I just heard back from my friend today and it turns out the artist picked one of my ideas. I won! General congratulations and back slapping for me...

And now I feel the pressure to deliver since it was my idea that was chosen. *sigh*

And the idea? In a nutshell, t's about Mexican wrestlers, Aztec death gods and general mayhem and untra-violence. You know, the usual...

More updates as the situation warrants, of course. Oh, and this is the comics project that I wrote about on occasion last month. It'll be interesting to fit in even more writing with everything that's going on now, and everything that I know is coming down the pike in the near future.

Wish me luck.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Stonecoast and lots of numbers


For those of you who are unaware, I started a writing MFA program, Stonecoast, this Summer. I know I've mentioned it in this space a few times and I wanted to write about it at more length now that I've just completed the first semester of work. First I'll talk about my intentions in following the grad school route, and then I'll assess what I think I've accomplished this semester. Finally, tacked on to the end in an ungainly manner, I'll run the numbers on what I wrote over the last few months. Sounds fun, right?

First, what I wasn't expecting by attending an MFA program. I don't think writing that leads to publishing can be taught. I certainly had no belief that I would be handed a magical set of rules that, once followed, led to me becoming the next Stephen King. I think that lots of writing and re-writing is the only thing that can lead to publication.

And that's one of the big reasons I wanted to go back to school. Time. I'll admit that last year when I was considering applying to grad school , I was feeling more than a little lost. I had been a stay-at-home dad for two years and while that was great, and continues to be great, it was not how I defined myself. I'd always thought of myself as a writer. Only I wasn't doing much writing. Since 2003, when my first professionally published comic came out, comics was the medium through which I channeled my creativity. There was no comics work. Several proposals had been rejected and no one was exactly knocking down my door to submit more. I knew that the entire industry was in an economic downturn, but that didn't really help boost my ego.
It occurred to me then that I should get back to writing prose. Writing comics had seemed like a sideline back when I was first published, but then it became my sole focus. So, prose. I tried a couple of times to write longer prose pieces -- I've never cared much for writing short stories, though I seem to be developing a taste for them now. But it was hard to find a focus. I struggled for more than a year with one piece, got about 150 pages and then stalled out when my computer suffered a hard drive crash that was unrepairable. After I calmed down about so much wasted work, it was almost a relief. I've since recovered that word document and can't bring myself to go back and reread it to see if it can be salvaged. I may need to just consign it to the dustbin of history, as it were.

I thought that a writing program of some sort might be just what I needed. It would get me back into the habit of writing prose and it would impose a deadline to do so. Perfect. And while I don't believe you can teach someone to write, I did think that a grad program would have other benefits. Among these, I'd be exposed to a group of writing professional and I would get their critiques of my work, I'd meet and (I hoped) become friends with peers who were in the same situation as me, and I would learn from those who had already gone through the process of getting published the ins and outs of the business. Of those three the second, meeting peers, was most important to me. Living where I do, I feel sometimes like I'm living in a creative vacuum. It's been nice to have people I can reach out to via email or facebook and know that they are sharing a similar experience.

Once I decided that a writing program is what I wanted, I had to decide which one. I interviewed a couple of writers who had been through MFAs. They told me the same thing -- an observation borne out on various websites and in interviews I've read. As soon as I told them that I wanted to write genre fiction, their reply was that I would have a difficult time finding a program that would work with me. Most MFA programs are welcoming of non-genre, or literary, fiction and don't know what to do with genre. And even if a program said they'd work with you, I was told, I would find that that statement was designed just to get me in the door. Once there, I'd find an environment hostile to genre fiction. This was discouraging to say the least, and it led to me putting the idea on the back burner for a while.

I was toying with the idea of applying to the Clarion Writers' Workshop, an intensive six-week long "boot camp" for writers, when I heard a radio interview with Kelly Link. Ms Link is a phenomenal writer of surreal short stories and a recent favorite of mine. In the interview she was asked what work she did besides writing and she said that she taught at the Stonecoast MFA. That sent me running to the Internet to look up the program. Like every MFA in the country, Stonecoast has disciplines in Fiction, Non-fiction, and Poetry. What makes them unique is that they also offer a concentration in Popular Fiction (read: Genre Fiction). It didn't take me long to decide that I wanted to go there. And it was the only program to which I applied. If I had not been accepted, I would have taken it as a sign that I wasn't meant to go to grad school and I needed to find another way to advance my writing. I am so happy that I got accepted.

I was even happier when, a few months ago, Poets and Writers magazine named Stonecoast one of the top ten low-residency MFA programs in the country. What, I hear you asking, does low-residency mean? A full-residency program is one which holds classes every day. You stop your life to attend, move to the city where the college is located, etc. A low-res program just means it's part-time. Twice a year I go to Maine for two weeks to attend classes, lectures, and workshops. The rest of the time, I'm at home doing the required homework. I mail off five packets over the six months of the semester and communicate with my advisor (in the program they are called "mentors") over the phone or via email. It's all self-directed and self-motivating so it's really a case of sink or swim for the students.

Which leads to the section where I talk about what I've accomplished. One of the unexpected results of being accepted -- a real sense of urgency to my writing. Seriousness. Fucking gravitas. Let me give you an example using the novel I just finished. In the four months before I started the MFA program, I wrote just 12,500 words -- that's 56 pages. After starting the program in mid-July through the beginning of December -- about four and a half months -- I wrote an additional 91,000 words. That's just shy of 400 pages. And I didn't use the novel toward the page count for my homework. It far exceeded what the school's handbook says to send to the advisors on a monthly basis. I wrote and sent in short stories. If there was a day when I didn't write, I felt bad about myself.

And I wasn't the only person affected by this. Paying for an MFA program makes your family and friends take your writing very seriously. Suddenly my writing became a priority.

I also feel like I've gained confidence in my writing. The comments I received in workshop last July, and the critiques from my advisor, have really boosted my ego -- in a good way. And, not to worry, I'm still getting some fairly humbling responses as well.

Now that I've completed a draft of my novel, I feel like my experience at Stonecoast will be different. Next semester I see myself devoting myself to rewriting the novel and not devoting so much time to writing new material. I'll probably write enough just to satisfy the packet requirements and then use the rest of my time on the rewrites. I want to get this thing polished up and to an agent as soon as possible. I want to see if it's publishable.

And now the numbers:

Last numbers dump of the semester. Here is what I've been doing for the last five months.

As I mentioned, I wrote 91,000 words on my novel. In addition, I also wrote three-and-a-half short stories and a short film script. There was also a new comics proposal thrown in their as well.

Short story A: 8,026
Short story B: 8,682
Short story C: 5,319
Short story D: 5,089 (so far)
Short film: 2,008 (an 11-page script)
Comics project: 1,516

That gives us a grand total of 121, 640 words for the semester. That's 486 pages. Not bad. I guess I don't feel too bad about slowing down through this month (which is all about preparing for the next residency) and the next semester. Come next July, though, I bet I'll be ready to get back on that horse.

I already have an idea for a second novel...

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Holiday Pimp

File this under "shameless self-promotion." Christmas is just around the corner, Hanukkah is nearly over, Kwanzaa is nearly upon as are other celebrations about which I am unaware because I am an American with a public school education. In that spirit, I thought I would take this opportunity to point out to you, the gift-buying public, that I am the author of several fine comic books. Which comics? Well, let me show you. Consider the list below the only one you need to complete your holiday shopping:

Star Wars: Infinities -- Return of the Jedi
Art by Ryan Benjamin

My very first published work. Also the most awkwardly titled. It's an alternate-universe take on the third of the Star Wars films (or the sixth if you are a heretic and consider the new trilogy worthy of the canon). This book is perfect for the sci-fi-loving geek in your household.





Art by Todd Demong

My first creator-owned titled. Originally published by Arcana
Comics, it was later collected by big-time publisher, Simon & Schuster. This one is near and dear to heart. It's the story of
thirteen-year-old Sylvia Mark. She's the product of a government-funded experiment and she can totally kick your butt. Honestly,
my favorite thing about this book is Todd Demong's art, which evolved over the course of our doing the book together (as a bonus, if you follow the link to Todd's blog, he posted a new sketch of Regina from 100 Girls just today!). It starts out great and moves on to face-meltingly great. This is recommended for teens as there is a fair bit of violence.


Art by Justin Nitz

An anthology of indie horror comics featuring some very cool cats (Rick Geary is at the top of that heap!) and published by my good friend Devon Devereaux. Buy this book and see my riff on classic EC horror tales of old. There's a lot of fun stuff here for those who like their horror mixed with black comedy. This is definitely suggested for adults.




Art by Nuria Peris, Sergio Sandoval and Studio Fenix

Another creator-owned title, this one published by Dark Horse Comics. It features a young girl in a world where giant mecha
are the principle war machines. Children are taught to drive these machines at an early age. I've always thought of this series as Digrassi High meets Mobile Suit Gundum. It's high melodrama in a futuristic high school and the occasional alien menace. Yes. And it features gorgeous art by a team of Spanish
artists. Suitable for younger teens or anyone who was once a young teen.


MySpace Dark Horse Presents volumes 1 & 5

I have one short story in each of these volumes. Volume one features a Gear School short story with art by Nuria and Sergio. Volume five features a new character, Dalton, with art by Todd Demong. Both are fun little romps surrounded by an eclectic collection of very cool comics. DHP has always had a reputation for publishing some of the finest comics in the business, and the on-line incarnation was no exception (my own contributions notwithstanding). Get these for anyone who is looking to be exposed to a lot of new titles. Probably rated PG-13.

Art by Nuria Peris, Sergio Sandoval and Studio Fenix

A follow-up to the original Gear School, this book features more of everything you (well, maybe not you) loved in the first volume -- romance, rivalry, giant robots beating the snot out of each other. Buy this for anyone who loved book one or buy both for a great little set. Again, suitable for young teens and up.





Art by Todd Demong and mumble-mumble...

This is an odd little number, but of potential interest to some folks out there. This book collects some team-up stories featuring characters that Arcana has published over the years. One of these is a 100 girls story published for the first time ever. It was written and drawn years ago and fell into a pit of legal darkness when the character with which Sylvia teamed up had her company go bankrupt. Some deft maneuvering on the part of Arcana makes this story's publication possible. It's a 48-page story told in two parts. Part one features art by Todd Demong, part two by a fine young man whose name I've forgotten and can't find record of. C'mon, it was like four or five years ago. Buy the book and you can look it up yourself. Recommended for older teens.

There you go. A little something for everyone on your holiday gift list. Unless I'm that person, of course. But you can always just send me cash. Happy holidays, folks.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Draft 0.9

Late Friday night/early Saturday morning I typed THE END at the bottom of my novel. And then I just stared at it for a while. And then, this being the age that it is and the time that it was, I updated my FaceBook status and went to bed.

If only typing those words meant that I was done with this particular work. Unfortunately, it's not even at a place where I can call it a complete draft--that will require another couple of months of writing. Writing I won't be able to get to until January. I have a story to rewrite for my last homework packet and much, much reading to do to prepare for January's residency in Maine. Oh, and I still need to read a short story for a friend and give her notes. Honestly, it already feels a little anticlimactic.

But I am happy to be done. This is the first time I've been able to finish the draft of a novel. Now I need to figure out what to do with it. In January, I suppose I'll start patching some of the holes I know exist in the draft. One of the things that allowed me to finish is that I didn't go back and fix things as they occurred to me. I think that's where I'd lost momentum on earlier attempts at a novel. I rewrote as I went and I lost steam. This time I forged ahead and kept notes about all of the things I needed correct. Another thing that helped me was a trick I picked up from Corey Doctorow. He suggest that anytime he came across something that he needed to look up while writing would instead get a "TK" in it's place in the manuscript. TK being two letters that almost never occur together in English. Then, once he's done with a draft, he goes back and replaces all those TKs. Using that method meant that I ran up against something I didn't know at the time I was writing, I didn't have to stop and go look something up on the amazing time-suck device known as the Internet. I just typed two little letters and continued on. We'll see how I feel once I start replacing all of those instances of TK.

So things will be a little quiet here as I try and get caught up on homework. No more writing about writing. At least not the close-to-real-time blogging I've been doing lately. There are a few things I want to write about in the next little while. I want to write about the novel I just (sort of) finished. I want to write about the MFA program I am attending and why I decided to attend one at all. And, based on an email I got from a friend on FaceBook, I want to write a little about my process of writing in general. If anyone reading this has any questions along those lines, add them as a comment and I'll do my best to answer them.

For now, here's the last numbers update for some time. Remember that these are Friday/Saturday's numbers
Daily word count: 2,339
Monthly word count: 5,319
Novel word count: 103,450

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dave Brubeck

An early update. I had to do my writing this afternoon because I won't have a chance tonight. I gave up a nap to get it done. Do you see the kinds of sacrifices I make for my art?!

It'll be another short, music-related post. I thought I'd class it up a little bit. This is a video of The Dave Brubeck Quartet doing "Blue Rondo a la Turk." Good, good stuff. I remember being at a party once in college and a girl I was talking to asked me what kind of jazz I liked. I started my (admittedly short list) with Dave Brubeck. Because of this, she said something to the effect of, "You don't know shit about jazz." I had never stated I did, but this really threw me. It's like she was telling me that I wasn't qualified to like what I liked. And I know this kind of pretentious behavior is part and parcel of being that age, but man it got under my skin. I was so mad I didn't even try to hit on her later in the evening when she was obviously drunk. Because, you know, I have principles. I think it was around this time that I started formulating my "no guilty pleasures" theory, where I refuse to feel bad about anything I like. I may have to expound on that at some point here.

Anyway, take it away, Dave:


And here are today's numbers:

Daily word count: 1,010
Monthly word count: 2,980
Novel word count: 101,111

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Johnny Cash Project + numbers


As I near the end of the draft of the novel, I feel like I'm developing tunnel vision. All I can think about is the book. What happens next, and after that? Until I get to the end. Which will be soon. All I really have time for are these bits of Internet flotsam that seem to constitute how I take in the world these days. The easiest of these to post, and those that seem most meaningful to me right now, are the music videos I've been posting. I feel like I couldn't write without music and when I discover that videos exist for these songs that are meaningful in their own right, well, I just have to share them.

A case in point: The Johnny Cash Project. Director Chris Milk (who directed the beautiful video experience for Arcade Fire's "We Used to Wait") has created a site where fans of the late Johnny Cash may contribute to a video of his song "Ain't No Grave." The result is beautiful and moving. I don't want to say too much about it, I'll leave it to you to explore the site, or not. If you click on the link, you won't be disappointed. I promise.

And here are today's numbers.

I was filled with a desire to reach 100,000 words on the novel today. That number, which is nice and round and darts around my brain in a pleasing way, has been floating just out of reach for the last few days and I was determined to put it behind me. Long story short, I did it. Yea, me. Oh, and since this is the beginning of a new month, I'm resetting the numbers. I have a feeling that the novel is the only thing I'll be working on until I reach the end. But I could very well be wrong about that.

Daily word count: 1,970 (which is also the year I was born--more resonance.)
Monthly word count: 1,970
Novel word count: 100,101

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Turn it down, hipster"

No writing tonight, and no writing update, but I leave you with this. The Death Wish trailer re-cut for our modern times. For those who are faint of heart, it contains swearing.

My favorite line: "No, it's a right-now coat!"

Writing update: Nov 29 edition

Just numbers tonight. I didn't start writing until 11:00, which means it's now late and I am tired. Though I feel like I'm having to force myself to stop. I'm in the middle of an exciting (to me) scene, and it's hard to not just keep going. I can feel the novel winding down. This scene, another big character scene, and then some mop up. I'm guess by this weekend I'll be done with this draft. Crazy. I really didn't know if I had it in me. And maybe I still don't. I guess it could all implode before I finish.

Anyway, here are the numbers:

Daily word count: 1405 (novel)
Monthly word count: 34,647 (26,630 novel, 5,790 story, 2,227 new project)
Novel word count: 98,131

Sunday, November 28, 2010

R.I.P. Leslie Neilsen

Also, weekend numbers.

Just this morning I was talking to to my wife about Police Squad and some of the hilarious devices they used in each episode to satirize detective shows at the time. This evening I was saddened to learn that Leslie Neielsen, the star of Police Squad and Airplane! and, of course, Forbidden Planet. Nielsen was one of those lucky actors who got to have a second act to his career. (I know that F. Scott Fitzgerald was mostly wrong when he said that there are no second acts in American lives, but, as far as actors are concerned, he was mostly right.) A handsome dramatic actor as a young man, Nielsen was given the opportunity to reinvent himself when he starred in Airplane! There was no looking back.


I remember seeing Airplane! in the theater, which seems impossible now since I was only ten years old at the time, but that might say something about how I was raised. Regardless, I know I didn't understand everything I was watching, but I knew it was transformative. That movie was the benchmark against which I measured all comedies for a very long time.

I'm going to look on amazon.com now to see about buying Police Squad on DVD. If you haven't seen it before, I suggest you do the same.

And here are the numbers:

Daily word count: 3,266 (1,049 novel, 701 story, 1,516 new project)
Monthly word count: 33,242 (25,225 novel, 5,790 story, 2,227 new project)
Novel word count: 96,726

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Friday's numbers

Sorry that I'm posting so little besides my daily numbers and the occasional video. I feel like all my free time is spent doing other writing and it's sometimes hard to muster up a decent post here. And I'm not sure when it'll let up. New and interesting things keep cropping up and I can't seem to say no to them. It's not a bad problem to have.

I'm thinking of setting myself a goal of one or two large, juicy posts a week. The rest would just be the filler that you've come to expect, of course. We'll see if I can manage that once I'm done with the draft of this damned novel.

Which brings me to today's numbers:

I started making notes on a new project and I'm going to throw those numbers into the mix, mostly because it's writing I'm doing and I think those numbers should count toward my goal for the month. So there. Also, I made no progress on the short story today.

Daily word count: 1,897 (1,186 novel, 711 new project)
Monthly word count: 28404 (22,608 novel, 5,089 story, 711 new project)
Novel word count: 94,109

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's like a Thanksgiving present to myself

My wife and I decided to stay home today rather than travel to see family for Thanksgiving. That meant it was going to fall to me to make a Turkey and all the trimmings. That's just how things go in the Kreutz Gallardo household. I'm fine with it. I like to cook, and I'm good at it, so I really don't mind. But I had made myself a little crazy over the last few days because I'd never made a turkey before. I think I devoted more time to researching roasting techniques than I have on any piece of homework so far this semester. (If my advisor is reading this, that's hyberbole!) I'd also never made stuffing or from-scratch giblet gravy. Even more time spent researching.

But you can all rest easy, everything (except the stuffing) came out fine. Great, in fact! Not to toot my own own horn, but I think that turkey ranked up there with the top five turkeys I've ever eaten. And, because it was just the three of us -- and one of us is a two-year-old -- we have tons of leftovers. Yes. And it may have gone well, and not been as difficult as I imagined it would be, but I was still confined to the kitchen all day. And the last hour was a mad dash to make sure everything came out at roughly the same time. The point I'm trying to make here is that I felt the need to indulge myself. I'd suggested renting a movie, but my wife didn't feel up to it.

So I wrote. I made a public statement on this forum two days ago that I would be taking Wednesday and Thursday off from writing. That, I can now tell you, was a lie. I am apparently in a place where writing is something I do when I want to treat myself. Who knew I'd ever get there? I feel like mI'm a long ways from the days when staring at the blank screen would just about reduce me to tears. And I may very well get back there again, but I'm enjoying it while I'm able.

I just wrote 1,000+ words on the short story I'm writing. I'd been experiencing some frustration with this story. I had a beginning I liked, and I was pretty sure I knew where I wanted it to end up. It was that pesky middle part that I couldn't figure out. Well, t seems to be coming together now. Hopefully I'll wrap it up the first draft over the weekend.

And now I'll give myself another Thanksgiving present and send myself to bed.

That photo, by the way, was taken by my wife and is of my son regarding the thing that kept his dad from playing with him all day long.

Here are today's numbers:

Daily word count: 1,073 (all on the short story)
Monthly word count: 26,508 (21,419 novel, 5,089 story)
Novel word count: 92,923 (unchanged)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just the numbers

I'm going to be taking off tomorrow and Thursday from writing. I'm far enough ahead that I just want to enjoy Thanksgiving. And, of course, I need tomorrow to actually prepare for the enjoyment of Thanksgiving (I'll be preparing my first Turkey, etc). It'll be nice, and I'll be back at it starting Friday.

I stopped writing last night at the end of a chapter. I then realized that when I started writing today, I'd be starting on what I believe will be the last chapter of the novel. I know that I wrote a while ago that it felt like the ending was receding away from me, but lately I feel like I need to slow myself down -- that I need to not rush the ending. The whole process that's gone into writing this thing has made me feel crazy at times, I tell you what. Anyway, I'll write more about that later. You know, after I actually finish writing the damned thing.

For now, here are today's numbers:

Daily word count: 1,284 (all on the novel)
Monthly word count: 25,438 (21,419 novel, 4,016 story)
Novel word count: 92,923

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mostly numbers, but also a video

I took the weekend off from writing and read a book for homework. I got back to it tonight and I realized how being away from it for even two days makes me feel sketchy. Aw, well, it was unavoidable.

As to the video: It's been more than a year-and-a-half since I last wrote about Jenny Owen Youngs. I still listen to her music quite a bit. And today on FaceBook, I saw that it's her birthday today. (More than likely, it was her birthday yesterday to you since I'm posting this just before midnight.) I posted songs of hers on Twitter and FaceBook to celebrate, but I thought I'd post a video here. This is Ms Youngs's cover of the Nelly song, "Hot in Here." It's a hoot and a half and I think it still manages to showcase her amazing voice. I hope you like it. Oh, I should probably warn you that it contains some adult language. You've been warned.


And now, here are the numbers:

Daily word count: 1,914 (1,412 novel, 502 story)
Monthly word count: 24,154 (20,138 novel, 4,016 story)
Novel word count: 91,639

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Suburbs + 90k

Like me, do you like the band Arcade Fire? Do you like music videos directed by Spike Jonze? Do you like beautiful, but bleak visions of the lives of aimless teenagers who live in endless, surreal, militarized suburbs? If you said yes to all three then you have scored a trifecta of likes with this, the latest video from the aforementioned band directed by that guy I already named. It really is a lovely video, but it is also bleak, bleak, bleak. Enjoy!


Apparently this is taken from a short film that Jonze directed titled "Scenes From the Suburbs." I just did a quick search online, but I couldn't find any information about when or where one might be able to see the short film. I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

And now here are today's numbers:

Daily word count: 1,386 (all for the novel. Sorry, short story, no words for you today.)
Monthly word count: 22,240 (18,726, novel, 3,514, story)
Novel word count: 90,227 (Holy cow, I feel like I buried the lede here.)

Since I'm ahead on my weekly goal, I'm going to take the weekend off from writing and devote that time to catching up on some of my reading. That means no updates over the weekend. I'm sure you'll all muddle through somehow.

Friday, November 19, 2010

De-ritualization


Melissa is off watching the adventures of some boy wizard (maybe you've heard of him?), and I get to stay home and finish up my writing for the day. I think it's a fair trade.

It occurs to me, having started doing these almost-daily updates, that my writing schedule must seem fairly erratic. That's actually a choice as much as it is a necessity. I've spent the last years of my life intentionally de-ritualizing my writing process. I feel like I've spent, possibly wasted, a lot of time in the past waiting for inspiration to strike. And I did lots of things to try and court inspiration -- I always sat in the same place, I always wrote at the same time. Hell, there was a time when I had to have a candle and some incense burning. Lately, I have purposefully gotten away from all of that. Like I said, part of that is necessity. I'm a stay-at-home dad, I have to be able to sit down whenever and where ever the opportunity presents itself.

Some days it's harder than others to get into the writing, but there hasn't been a day I can recall in this semester that I haven't been able to write at all. And I've skipped days certainly, but that's mostly because I sometimes need sleep more than I need to write. Another hazard of being a writer raising a child.

The twitter post from Roger Ebert that illustrates this post really says it all. I wish I could go back in time and tell this to my younger self. Not that my younger self would believe it. My younger self was sort of a jerk. A bigger jerk, I should say.

I guess I can be happy that I've finally learned the lesson. Better late than never, I'm getting the writing done.

And here are today's numbers.

Daily word count: 1,734 (1,001 novel, 733 short)
Monthly word count: 20,854 (17,340 novel, 3,514 short)
Novel word count: 88,841

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

O + AW 4EVER

I'm up late writing this evening because earlier, Melissa and I were irresponsible awesome parents and we drove Oscar an hour South to Eugene so we could all go watch Allison Weiss play live. Allison Weiss is a big deal in our house and Oscar often demands that we play her music. (Actually, given his two-year-old soft palate, he demands that we play "Al Wise.") Ms Weiss, who hails from Brooklyn, is touring the West coast with her friends Bess Rogers and Lelia Broussard, both of whom are very talented in their own rights.

We were also lucky because our friend, Eugene musician, Dan Jones, was able to join us for dinner and the show.

As we walked into the venue, Oscar started marching around, asking very loudly where Al Wise was. I had seen them on the sidewalk outside unloading their equipment. He wanted to go and see them. Who are we as parents to deny out son (read: I wanted to meet her, too)? Here's a tip to anyone who wants to introduce themselves to three lovely young ladies: have a cute-as-hell two-year-old with you. They thought he was very cute, indeed.
Especially when he was able to tell Ms Weiss the title of his favorite song. It's "Let Me Go" for the record.

The cuteness continued to build to dangerous levels once the show got under way. Oscar stood right in front of the stage, danced and sang along with her set. And then we got pictures and her signature on two of her CDs. Besides being crazy talented, she's also nice and gracious. I think it was well worth the travel and the fact that we kept Oscar up past his bed time. We'll remember it for a long time to come.

Unfortunately, we couldn't stay to see either Bess Rogers or Lelia Broussard perform. O had reached the end of his tether and we needed to leave before a screaming tantrum wiped away all those cute memories. All in all, an excellent night.

And now, here are the numbers.

Daily word count: 1,622 (1,082 novel, 540, story)
Monthly word count: 19,120 (16,339, 2,781 story)
Novel word count: 87,840

Human Behavior

No new writing today, but I'm ahead on my word count so that's okay. Instead, I finally finished rewriting that short story I've been working on for the last several weeks. Man, it was tough to crack. It doesn't help that I am the world's worst rewriter. Tomorrow I will send it off to my advisor and see if he agrees with that assessment.

In the meantime, a video from the past. I sometimes watch music videos with my son--he's a fan of Vampire Weekend and Allison Weiss, but he'll tolerate nearly everything I show him. I like sharing music I like with him. The other day I showed him the video for Bjork's "It's Oh So Quiet." It's directed by Spike Jonez and it's bright and colorful and a lot of fun. Later, after he'd gone to bed, I thought that I should have shown him the video for her song, "Human Behavior." It's also directed by Spike Jonez. I looked it up and watched it. I did not remember it being so nightmare-inducing. Seriously. Everything about it is terrifying. It looks and feels like a kid's movie directed by David Lynch. I am eternally grateful that I didn't show it to my son. The damage to his psyche would have been massive.

Having said all of that, enjoy!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Jess Nevins: Hero to the Nation!

Okay, maybe I'm overstating it a bit, but I like his stuff a lot.

Nevins first came to my attention as the man who obsessively annotated Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's comics series, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. The comic is crammed with more visual references and in-jokes than the casual reader could be expected to know. Nevins took it upon himself to identify them all. This is a feat I find both amazing and scary.

Nevins is, by profession, a research librarian and his affection for data is apparent in everything he does. In 2005 he wrote the exhaustive 1,200-page Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana wherein Nevins maps out the roots of modern Fantasy and science fiction. I still kick myself for not buying the book when I had a chance as it can now only be found used at usurious prices.

His latest project is a series of columns for the science fiction website, i09.com. He plans to trace the history of science fiction publishing starting at the turn of the last century with the rise of the pulps. For anyone interested in fantasy or science fiction, it makes for fascinating reading.

Nevins maintains a personal blog, a tumblr blog and his twitter feed (where, for example, he once expounded on trends in Mexican pulp magazines) is one of the things that makes me feel that service is worthwhile.

And now for today's numbers.

I thought I'd be taking the day off from my novel, but that wasn't to be. I seem to be unable to stop writing the freaking thing. It's a bit scary. To me, anyway. That being said, here are the numbers.

Daily word count: 1,165 (all on the novel -- no words for you, short story!)
Monthly word count: 17,498
Novel word count: 86,758

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Numbers, November 13 edition.

For these keeping score at home, here are the numbers.

Daily word count: 1,750 (1,031 novel, 719 story)
Monthly word count: 16,333
Novel word count: 85,593

Getting it done getting it done getting it done.

On even stranger tides...


Found today on BoingBoing is this interview with SF authors Tim Powers, James Blaylock and K. W. Jeter. These three wrote the earliest recognized Steampunk novels (Jeter coined the term),and all three were friends at Cal State Fulerton. Where they all met and befriended Philip K. Dick. Um, wow. In the interview, they talk about PKD and what led them to write those early Steampunk works, and what they think of the genre's current incarnation.

Leading the article, however, is the news that Powers sold one of his novels, On Stranger Tides, to Disney and that it serves as the basis for the newest Pirates of the Caribbean movie which I believe is titled, Pirates of the Caribbean: I Saw the First One and Sort of Liked It, But Didn't See Any of the Others. Awkward title. Having read and loved the source novel, I'm a bit horrified to see it Disney-fied, but I'm glad to see Powers earning a paycheck for his wonderful work. (Like Whitman, I contradict myself.) The best case scenario here is that people will seek out the original novel and be exposed to one of the best writers of SF out there.

And here are today's numbers.

Daily word count: 1,708 (1,323 novel, 385 story)
Monthly word count: 14,583 (13,061, 1,522 story)
Novel word count: 84,562

Friday, November 12, 2010

I couldn't help myself

During the few breaks I had today at my part-time job, I started pecking away at a new short story. I hadn't planned to do this. Hell, I didn't even particularly like that I was doing it. I still have the novel to write and I have homework I should be doing for the MFA. But there it was, a story. Plot, characters, dialog--it all just sort of fell into my brain whether I wanted it or not. I've learned in these situations that I need to actually start writing it down or else it'll just disappear. And if I say I'm going to write down a few notes so I can come back to it later, well, that never works. So I have the opening to a new short story and I guess I'll be writing it over the next little while.

I'm updating the writing numbers I posted earlier today. I'm not sure if I should count the words I write for the short in my stated goal of 30,000 for the month since I wanted those all to go toward my novel. Not that anyone reading this cares, but I've already admitted that I'm doing this for myself. If anyone happens to have an opinion, however, please feel free to leave a comment and let me know.

For now, here are the numbers.

Daily word count: 2,262 (1,125 novel, 1,137 story)
Monthly word count: 12,875 (11,738 novel, 1137 story)
Novel word count: 83,239 (unchanged from earlier)

And I have to warn you, we've only scratched the surface on how obsessive I can be.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

This Is How Michael Caine Speaks

This video is helping me to get through a day when I 1)am sick and 2)can't seem to get warm. I'm not sure what The Trip is, but I think I need to find out.


Also, we have early numbers from my daily writing/torture session.

Daily word count: 1,125
Monthly word count: 11,738
Novel word count: 83,239

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Writing watch, day 9

This image, which I like a lot and will try and incorporate into my working ethos, was found here.

And now, here is the usual blather about my writing:

I decided I needed another day to work on the rewrites for my short story. These rewrites are kicking my ass, quite frankly. My goal as a writer is to get to the point where every story is golden in the first draft. That's possible, right? Anywho, I told myself that if I was going to take a day to rework a story, then I had to double up on the my word goal for the novel. That makes sense, right?

I did it, believe it or not. It felt good. I wonder if I could do it every day. I suspect I could, but I think it would require abandoning my family and all worldly concerns such as eating and bathing. I doubt that it would be worth it.

Here are the numbers.

Daily word count: 2,065
Monthly word count: 10,613
Novel word count: 82,114

Monday, November 8, 2010

Is my printing fetish unseemly?

I think the only things for which I feel truly nostalgic all orbit around printing. I just discovered that someone is making a feature-length documentary about Linotype machines. My heart nearly burst while watching this trailer. I'll be watching for when this film is completed and gets a distributor.

80k

I reached the 80,000-word mark on my novel this evening. That's 350 type-written manuscript pages. This is the furthest I've ever gotten on a novel attempt. And, honestly, I don't think this one will be an attempt. I'm going the distance on this one.
A couple of weeks ago, I was telling Melissa that no matter how much I wrote, the ending felt like it was running away from me. I think the actual words I said were, "The ending is receding so fast, I can see itsred shift." Because I know science. But I don't feel that way anymore. Within 20,000 words or so, I'm going to reach the point where all that's left to write is THE END.

And then the real work of rewriting will start. But still...

Here,as they say on Market Place, are the numbers.

Daily word count: 1,263
Monthly word count: 8,548
Novel word count: 80,049 (This is a new category for those playing at home.)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wrung out

I have nothing very clever to say this evening. Unlike every other evening. I worked a long day and then walked home in a rain that could only be described as "biblical." I'm posting here only so I can update my word count. Here goes:

Daily word count: 1,625
Monthly word count: 7,285

That means I have earned the right to take tomorrow off from new writing and I can rewrite a short story for my next homework packet.

Thank you and good night.

Boost


I work a part-time job Thursday through Saturday. It's those days when I knew reaching my daily writing goal would the most difficult. On Thursday and Friday, I watch my son all day long and only hand him off to my wife as I am on my way to work. After that I work until late and then come home to write. Sometimes I get some work done if he naps really well in the afternoon, but that's far from a given. And I also use my breaks at work to peck away at my writing, but, again, it's rare that I am able to get my daily goal that way.

Today I didn't get home until just before midnight. Beat from a full day with my son and a nearly full work day at the job. I really wondered how I'd have it in me to finish what I need to. Then my wife showed me something my son had wanted me to have. It's a business card-sized piece of paper. My son dictated a note to me for my wife to transcribe. He then ordered her to place it under my pillow for me to find.

In case you can't read the writing in the photo, it says:

"Daddy,
This is a
surprise for
Halloween.
Good morning!
Good night.
I love my
Daddy.
Oscar"

After seeing that, I felt like I could stay up as long as I needed to to make this happen.

And here's the daily word count:

Words for the day: 1,127
Words for the month: 5,660

If I am able to reach 7,000 words tomorrow (a not-unreasonable goal) then I'll be taking Sunday off from new writing to work on the revisions for a short story.

Friday, November 5, 2010

More inspiration coming soon


I read today on his blog that Warren Ellis is working on, as he calls it, "a short booklet about writing comics." This is exciting news. When Ellis writes about comics, I pay attention. I may not love every comic he does, but they are all worth looking at and dissecting. He seems to be one of the few people working in the field who really thinks about the medium. I think most people, myself included, operate from a sort of gut-level, but Ellis is a formalist. That's my take on it anyway.

The last book of his about comics that I read was 2001's Come In Alone which collected the columns he wrote for Comic Book Resources. I've read it several times and have been thinking recently that it's time to read it again. A new book on the subject from the same author makes me happy. Maybe I'll finally be able to figure out how these comics things work. Though that is asking a lot.

And, before I forget, here are today's numbers.

Words for the day: 1,249
Words for the month: 4,533

Also, I should note that I love writing scary, prophetic dream sequences. That is all.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

More porn for print nerds

Also, the day's numbers

One of the cooler products I've discovered in a while is Field Notes Brand notebooks. For the last year or so I never go anywhere without one -- they've supplant Moleskine notebooks as a common book for me. I collect all sorts of random things in them, from phone numbers to passwords to comics pages layouts. They are well-designed and sturdily-made. I have always been attracted to items like this. Throw in that they are made in the USA, and I feel like they are doing me a favor every time I send the company money.

In addition to the chip-board covers of the everyday notebooks, they also do limited runs of different colors and designs once a quarter. The last limited edition color they did was a black cover with debossed type. It's a really snazzy number.

The video below sows how the notebooks were made and it features the pressmen who operate the machinery with which they were made. It's beautifully shot and the care and devotion of the craftsmen involved really comes through. Watching stuff like this makes me wish I'd stayed in printing.


Also, here are my writing numbers for today:

Words for the day: 1,206
Words for the month: 3,284

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Writing update: Nov 2 edition


I had a hard time concentrating on my writing this evening. Every five minutes I was checking the election results and diving deeper and deeper into a funk. So it impeded my writing a bit. But now the results are mostly in. One last kick in the stomach would be if Oregon handed the governorship over to a guy who's only qualifications seem to be he was once able to throw a ball through a hoop. I should stop this now.

Here are the numbers.

Words for the day: 1,066
Words for the month: 2,078

That first number resonates. 1066 was the year of the Norman invasion of England, and the battle of Hastings (which is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry). 2078, of course, is the year that the robot army will rise and finally crush its human oppressors. But the robots will vote a straight Democratic ticket, so that'll be okay.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Statement of intention

October felt like a lost month somehow. I rewrote a couple of stories and did manage to write some new material on my novel, but I was nowhere near as productive as I should have been (nowhere near as productive as I'd been in August and September). So, I figured I'd use this space to publicly state my goal for the month.

I plan to write a thousand words a day this month. Every day. That's 30,000 words for the month. There. Plan on a lot of little entries on the blog this month updating my progress. I think I'll have time for little else. I still have reading to do for my MFA, and reading responses. And we just got our list of seminars for the next residency in January and those all have reading to be done for them as well. November and December will be very busy months for me.

So, to start the month off right, here's my daily update.

Words for the day: 1,012
Words for the month: 1,012

Wish me luck.

Friday, October 29, 2010

All Hallow's Read


Writer Neil Gaiman is trying to start a new tradition that I really want to get behind: All Hallow's Read. The idea is a simple one, on Halloween, or during the week of Halloween, give someone a scary book. That's it. Any chance to give and receive books is okay by me. Here's a link to the All Hallow's Read FAQ.

This reminds me of some conversations I've had with my Gear School partner, Nuria Peris. Apparently in Barcelona, their version of Valentine's day, The Day of Saint George, is observed by men giving women flowers and women giving men books. As soon as I heard that, I started looking into how to move to Spain.

For a number of reasons, I'd love to see this tradition catch on. Chief among them is my love of books. And I have a vested interest in passing that love onto others. For instance, my son, and other future readers.

Okay, who has some good scary book recommendations?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Workshop

Today I sent off my second packet of stories that will be workshopped at the Stonecoast residency in January. Stonecoast being the MFA in creative writing program I am attending. I am completing? Which has taken over my life? One of those is the correct usage, I'm not sure which.


This time around, I submitted a short prose story and a script for a short film. Both of them feature the same protagonist. That means something, but what exactly scares me. I'm three-quarters of the way through the novel I'm writing (give or take) and some part of my brain keeps telling me that this character will be the main character of the next one that I write. I keep telling my brain to shut up and let me finish the book in front of me, but it doesn't listen.


Anyway, I'm surprised by how much more confident I feel about my writing after just a few months in the program. Whether or not that confidence is earned I can't say. But I know that six months ago when I submitted my first ;packet for workshop, I was a nervous wreck. I convinced myself that I was deluded if I thought my pieces, the first two chapters from my novel, were up to snuff. I don't have any of those fears now. Not that I'm convinced I'm the second coming of Ernest Hemingway or anything. I just think I've written solid stories that will become better once they've been workshopped. Feeling confident about my writing is a new feeling for me. It's one I could get used to.

Another reason for me to be excited this residency is that I get to workshop with two amazing writers, Mike Kimball and James Patrick Kelly. Mike is my advisor/mentor this semester so I know that his comments will be thorough (I restrained myself from typing "brutal") and helpful in the extreme. I've never worked with or met James, but I've read some of his short fiction, which I liked, and I know he teaches at Clarion, so I'm expecting great things.


Reading over this, I realize I should probably write more about both the MFA program and about the novel. I won't do that tonight, but I will soon. Can you stand the suspense?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What sort of day was it?

It was the sort of day where only one thing will make me feel better: looking at photos of female cosplayers!*

You are welcome.

If memory serves, the contents of this site are safe for work.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

For your edification

I found two very cool things on Warren Ellis's blog today. If you are at all interested in media, whether it be print, television, film or comics (which, yes, I know are printed), then you should be checking in on this blog. Ellis has an interesting take on things and the items he chooses to post are always thought-provoking. Cases in point:

Here is part one of an essay on the occult written by comics writer Alan Moore. Mr Moore, in addition to being one of the finest writers to have ever worked in comics, is a practicing magician. His insights into the subject are required reading for anyone with an interest in magic.

And here is a thread from Ellis's message board, White Chapel. I'd suggest you read the thing in it's entirety, but for those in a hurry, here's a summary: comics artist Steve Lieber found out that the entire run of one of his miniseries had been scanned and put up on 4chan's comics channel. Rather than demand that it be taken down, Lieber went on 4chan and talked with interacted with them, answered their questions and generally played nicer than I think I would have. The upshot? A big surge in sales of his books through his Etsy page. This is very interesting to me because of my new interest in publishing to the web.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gear School + FaceBook


The folks at Bamf! have created a presence for the Gear School short film on FaceBook. It's in Spanish, but for those of you who went to public school and can only read one language (like me!) there is some non-language-specific content up there including a peek behind the scenes at the making of the film and some production photos. It's all pretty neat. If you're on the FaceBook, which I hear is popular with the kids, then you should "like" it.

That is all.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Inspiring...


Inspiration is strange and, to me at least, unfathomable.

I had the morning to write and I wanted to work on a piece for my next MFA residency. I knew that I wanted to write a short about a character I've been thinking about a lot lately (I almost wrote "a character that's been plaguing me lately" since that's what it feels like. I just can't get the guy out of my head). But knowing that, I had no idea what I wanted the story to be about. This seems to happen to me all the time and it's a major source of frustration.

One of the main influences for this character is Lawrence Block's "Scudder" books, which feature his private detective, Matthew Scudder. I decided to read a few Scudder short stories for inspiration. After I got to spent half an hour with a character I really like, I sat down and tried to map out a story for my own character.

About twenty minutes of staring at my fellow coffee shop patrons ensued before I actually got to writing. Starting with a blank page, I wrote down the first image in my head and just kept going. In bullet list style, I wrote out the broad action of the thing and some minor scraps of dialog. Then I moved on to flesh it out with an outline. (Yes, I outlined a short story. Why are you looking at me like that?)

When I was done, I had something that didn't look at all like a Scudder story, but I know, somehow, that the story I'd produced came about because I'd been thinking about Block's character and because I'd read those short stories before I began. I wish that my own creative process was a bit more transparent to me. I feel like my brain is a delicate engine, for which I never received an owner's manual. And I have to do everything I can to keep the damn thing working. I never know what will get the engine started, and I never know what will make it go completely haywire. It's very frustrating, my brain.

Regardless, I'm looking forward to now writing this story. And having it savaged in workshop...

The image, by the way, comes from Doug Savage's collection of sticky note cartoons.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Salem drama

Cast of Characters:
Me
Oscar
Lady (who will later become Crazy Lady)

Scene: The streets of downtown Salem

O and I walk down the street. I see an unassuming Lady standing on the corner. My assessment of her as unassuming is shaken when she starts to yell at someone across the street. O and I continue on our way with me keeping an eye on the Crazy Lady. She sees me looking at her and she turns to face us.

Crazy Lady (at the top of her lungs): And he has a child to protect him! As long as he has a child to shield him, he can do anything he wants and not take any responsibility, RIGHT?

O (cheerful): No-oh!

Crazy Lady looks confused and goes on her way.

And scene.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fameish

The Moth Radio Hour, which features people telling true stories in front of an audience without any notes, has a podcast component. I ran across this story by Steve Burns. Burns used to be the host of Blue's Clues. For reasons I don't want to go into right now (I was a sad loser...) I used to watch this show a lot despite the fact that I was not eight-years-old at the time that it aired. Anyway, here Burns tells a story about parlaying his small bit of fame into dating a Playboy model/stripper. It's funny and poignant, like a lot of the best stories featured on the Moth.

Here's a link to where you can listen to the story.